CALEXICO – The California Department of Veteran Affairs (CalVet), in partnership with the California State Library held a grand opening for the Veterans Resource Center ‘Veterans Connect @ the Library’ Tuesday evening at the Camarena Memorial Library.
“There are many veterans in the County that are not aware of the benefits they are eligible for” said Sandra Tauler, City of Calexico, Community Service Director. “We applied for a $4,500 grant from the California State Library and are very happy we were chosen. This is the first Veterans Connect @ the Library in Imperial County.”
The VRC will be operated by three retired veterans as volunteers, Army Veteran Jose Cuellar, Army Veteran Ernie Medina and Airforce Veteran Joe Vindiola. Hours of operation are Monday thru Friday 10:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M. at the Camarena Memorial Library.
“We are here to help facilitate the benefit process” said Vindiola. “We are retired and have the time to help and give back to those who need to speak to someone; veterans to veterans understand the lingo.”
“Veterans have been neglected for a long time” said Cuellar. “Even though people say it’s not true, veterans have been swept under a rug. It took me 25 years to get my benefits, it’s very frustrating. Veterans need to know that new programs exist and are available for them, their families and survivors.”
“We will continue to recruit volunteers to expand the service hours, but will be taking appointment for veterans who cannot make it during the operating times” said Tauler. “Veterans will have the ability to utilize computers to search for jobs, access emails and search for veteran information in addition, to having access to close to 100 books that deal with PTSD, coming home after service, looking for and understanding benefits, and other topics directly related to veterans as they deal with daily life after leaving the service.”
The focus is to provide information to reintegrate California veterans into the California workforce and our communities in order to provide veterans the quality of life of other Americans, provide veteran benefits and local service information to veterans and family members, and links to serving veterans especially local County Veteran Service Offices, CalVet and he Federal VA, increase registered veterans in the CalVet Reintegration system, increase California veteran benefit claims, and connect with veterans and their families to library resources.
“Veterans Resource Centers connect Veterans and their families to benefits and services they earned” said Keith Boylan, CalVet’s Deputy Secretary for Veterans Services. “Public Libraries are located close to where our Veterans live and work, and they are a convenient place for them to learn about state and federal al benefits.”
With the opening of five additional VRC’s (Calexico, Beaumont, City of Commerce, Rancho Cordova and Novato), veterans will enjoy access to 33 convenient locations throughout California.
State Library Grant Representative Karen Bosch Cobb said Imperial County has approximately 10,000 veterans of which only 40% are receiving some sort of benefit.
“If veterans are already coming to the library, why not offer them services” said Cobb.